The Internet As Rehearsal Space – Will Jennings, Tuesday Thoughts

Skype

While I was prepping for last night’s CPT monthly business meeting, Julia and I planned an activity where we would share inspirational and/or applicable quotes from successful theatre professionals. I gave each member of the ensemble a quote and we pop-corned around, sharing the quotes. As I was planning this exercise, I debated with myself the literal words I would say to propose it. I was reminded of early acting classes, where the facilitator would say something about releasing the text into the rehearsal room; something about physicalizing the words; a description of the literal act of moving the text from the diaphragm and lungs through the esophagus, and the equal importance of physically taking in the text released from your classmates; and visualizing where the sound waves would go: taken in by your classmates, absorbed into the floorboards, rebounding off the walls. But this exercise wasn’t being performed in a rehearsal room, or a conference room, or even all together in one of our bedrooms. It was being performed over Skype.

In an ever increasingly digital age, we are being pressured to increase the collaboration between art and technology. To some extent, that’s great. I am a millennial who speaks technology as a second language. It comes very naturally to Critical Point Theatre to integrate technology into our art because we were raised with technology, and so it is natural for our art to reflect our upbringing. But the literal act of theatre creation over the internet makes me concerned. As we conducted our meeting online, I wondered what was being lost in the meeting. It is certainly not the words being said, because I could tell the meaning everyone meant to get across. The voice was (for the most part) unaltered because the microphones did their job and I could clearly hear everyone. But the body was almost entirely removed from the meeting. This is problematic to me because 50% of communication is body language. So I am worried that I am missing half of the conversation.

Will Face

We are working on a series of performances (digital and otherwise) about internet culture, isolation, and anonymity, so it is very fitting that we are using the internet as a tool to create this piece. I am getting even more interested in the juxtaposition in the isolation the internet can cause with the very nature of theatre as a community gathering. The comparisons between the Theatre of Dionysus and online gathering spaces such as 4chan and reddit is fascinating to me and worthy of greater exploration. However, as a theatre-maker, I am going to be forced to get used to the internet as rehearsal space. We are still working out the kinks of exactly how to combat the loss of the body and how we can feel wholly together over internet spaces. And as we go towards increasingly digital modes of theatre creation and digital modes of performance, we need to learn exactly what cannot be lost. Because I am a firm believer that the arts and technology can be integrated much more so than it is now, but I’m still looking for exactly what in the arts cannot be integrated with technology and what is being sacrificed with this integration.

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